Chile is a narrow land strip on the southern and south eastern frontiers of Latin America. Bordered by Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, the geographical shape of the country resembles fencing for the continent from the waves of South Pacific Ocean. Its territory includes Islas Desventuradas, Juan Fernandez Archipelago, Isla de Pascua (Easter Island) and Isla Sala y Gomez. Chile is a mixed bag of startling contrasts and profound natural beauty that projects the country as one of the finest travel destinations throughout the world. Santiago is the capital and the largest city in Chile. Other cities include Concepcion, Vina del Mar and Valparaiso.
With attractions ranging from the towering volcanic peaks of the Andes to the ancient forests of the Lake District, Chile has become a hot spot for nature lovers. There are a multitude of very good parks here, and plenty of opportunities for fine adventure travel. Chile is justly famous as the location of Torres del Paine, considered by many to be the finest nature travel destinations in all of South America.
As a result of frequent intermarriage between early Spanish settlers and indigenous inhabitants, majority of Chile's population forms the mestizo community. The Chileans minority is consisted of German, Italian, Irish, British, or Yugoslav descendents. Nearly 90% of the people practice Roman Catholicism. Spanish is the country's official language.
Torres del Paine
Chile is a land of astonishment if one tries to delve in to the details of its geographical details. The political frontiers of Chile are shared by Peru on the north, Bolivia on the northeast, Argentina on the east, Andes Mountain ranges on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west and south. The fascinating landscape of the country is a slender terrain sandwiched between the Andes and the Pacific waters. The land area of 1,800-mile (2,897 km) is the largest one if we calculate its spread from North to South.
In the north of Chile is the driest place on Earth, the Atacama Desert but it is rich in nitrate and copper components. Coming down to the central region, you experience the richness of a fertile land on the foothills of Andes. The arable central terrain is 700-mile-long (1,127 km) and is home to a prosperous agricultural and industrial region. It also houses majority of the Chilean population. The southern part of the country is basically wild with virgin dense forests and rugged volcanic terrains. Further down the southern tip, the area is a conglomeration of scattered lands, water bodies and inlets from the Pacific. The southernmost point of South America is Cape Horn, a 1,390-foot (424 m) rock on Horn Island in the Wollaston group, which belongs to Chile. Here also lies Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in the world near the Strait of Magellan. The island of Tierra del Fuego is divided between Chile and Argentina
The climatic conditions of Chile go in tandem with the topographical contrasts of the country. It is generally temperate with tolerable summer months and not so cruel winters in the central regions. It quite resembles the Mediterranean weather features. But the sub tropical heat makes its presence felt in the northern desert areas. Down south of Chile it is cool and damp that goes well with forest area.
Isla de Pascua
The history of Chile is a perfect example of tenacity and nationalism of the Native American tribes and a dominating yet prosperous Spanish rule. The time index of the country has seen it all. If at one time it successfully expanded its territories, no one can forget the dreadful days of brutality during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Today Chile is a blooming economy with a stable political set up but it hasn’t been a smooth ride to see this day.
It is believed that, lured by the fertile central regions of Chile and its nitrate treasure in the northern areas, many outlanders arrived and settled in this country. Though no exact time frame is available for the first settler, but it was originally inhabited by the Incas in the north and the nomadic Araucanos in the south. By sixteenth century, European sailors sniffed out the affluence of Chilean landscape but all their attempts to anchor on the Pacific shores were met with heavy resistance from the local tribes. The notable among the Europeans were Ferdinand Magellan, from Portugal and Diego de Almagro from Spain. Finally, in 1541, a Spaniard, Pedro de Valdivia, landed at Santiago and opened the avenues for progression. After an initial period of incessant warfare with the natives, the Spanish succeeded in subjugating the indigenous population by the end of seventeenth century. Chile won its independence from Spain in 1818 under the leadership of Bernardo O'Higgins and the Argentinian, José de San Martin. O'Higgins carried on a dictator rule until 1823 but he didn’t suppress democratic rights totally. Around this time foundations were laid for the modern state with a two-party system and a centralised government. Roman Catholicism also came into existence.
Then the days of Diego Portales, who fought a war with Peru in 1836–1839 that expanded Chilean territory, came. Chile fought the War of the Pacific with Peru and Bolivia from 1879 to 1883, and brought under control the region of Antofagasta, Bolivia's only outlet to the sea, and extensive areas from Peru. Pedro Montt led a revolution in 1891 and established a parliamentary dictatorship. Alessandri Palma's reformist ideas came along in the following years and a new constitution was adopted in 1925. Industrialisation began in Chile before World War I and gradually gave birth to Marxism. Juan Antonio Ríos, president during World War II, was originally pro-Nazi but in 1944 led his country into the war on the side of the Allies. Although Chile enjoyed economic boom between 1926 and 1931 but it was very hard hit external factors and Marxists who advocated complete social reforms. The struggle between the radicals and conservatives further worsened the situation.
Then on, there has been alternation between military and civilian rule. In 1970, Salvador Allende became the first president in a non-Communist country freely elected on a Marxist program. Political equations were established for relations with Cuba and the People's Republic of China, and nationalisation was implemented. But the economy went in tatters. A military coup in 1973 ended the 46-year era of constitutional government in Chile.
This brought the regime of Augusto Pinochet, who eventually assumed the office of president. His extreme strategies led to suspension of Parliament, banning political activity, large-scale privatisation, and severely curtailing of civil liberties. Pinochet's brutal dictatorship led to the imprisonment, torture, execution, and expulsion of thousands of Chileans. In 1989, Pinochet lost a plebiscite and stepped down in January 1990. Then Patricio Aylwin was elected as the head of a multi-party coalition.
Chile's economy is based on the export of minerals, which account for about half of the total value of exports. Copper is the nation's most valuable resource, and Chile is now the world's largest producer of the mineral. Since World War I, it developed an industrial capacity to process its raw materials and to manufacture various consumer goods. After years of political instability and bouts of errant nationalisation that shattered the economy from time to time, the financial set up is gradually gathering steam. Today it has opened the market from the government shackles and invites a high level of foreign trade.
The brighter days began with the foresightedness of Patricio Aylwin. Over the decade, Chile recovered as economic role model of South America and left behind the days of stringent military rules and policies. Though industrialisation and foreign investments chip in healthy contribution to the national balance sheet, agriculture remains the mainstay of the economy. It also absorbs a major share of the workforce. Though the GDP touched a glimmering scale of 8% at the end of twentieth century still it was marred by natural and man-made crisis like drought and electricity short fall. However, it recovered by the first couple of years of the 21st century and till today, the dependence of the economy on copper prices and the production of an adequate food supply are two of Chile's major economic problems. Chile has signed a free trade agreement with the US, which came into effect from 1 January 2004, with the aim of consolidating its economy.
Chile is a democratic republic with a parliamentary system and a constitution to provide the administrational back-up. It is a multiparty democracy with a directly elected president who serves four-year tenure (six-year prior to the constitutional amendments of 2005). The president may not be elected to consecutive terms. The bicameral legislature consists of a 48-seat senate of both elected and appointed members. But the 10 appointed seats were abolished in 2005. The chambers of deputies are constituted of 120 members. Administratively, Chile is divided into 13 regions.
Chile is perhaps the only country in the world that has experimented with its constitution nearly 50 times. Though formed in 1980, it came into implementation a year later. But the public couldn’t feel any difference as the dictator regime had tight clutches on it. At the end of the 20th century it was properly practised and now it is considered to be the ultimate guideline for any administrative dispute.